There are few better ways to start your day then with a bowl of fresh or warmed stewed fruit, topped with protein-rich plain yogurt and a sprinkle of crunchy home-made, oven-roasted muesli (and a strong coffee of course!).
When I started really reading labels in my late 20’s with a better understanding of the fine print, I was horrified at how high the fat and sugar percentages were in store-bought muesli and granola ‘clusters’ – sugar content often being upwards of 20%. Compounding this confusion was the difficulty in ascertaining how much of these fats and sugars were ‘naturally’ there in terms of the dried fruit and nuts, and how much was added – just to make it taste good or to get the clusters to stick together!
Most of these products have a huge range of health claims on the front packet, but at the end of the day – added sugar (in some form) is often listed as the 3rd or 4th ingredient item (indicating that after oats, and usually then dried fruits – it is the next main ingredient). So I started roasting my own muesli at home so that I knew exactly what was in it and so that could start the day with fuel that would be slow burning and full of beneficial nutrients.
Oats are a key cornerstone of many breakfasts and for good reason. They contain beta-glucan which is a soluble fibre, shown to improve blood glucose control and insulin responses after eating. This fibre also lowers cholesterol, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and has also been associated with reduced risk of some cancers, including breast cancer. Oats also contain a range of nutrients and antioxidants, including avenanthramide – a unique phytochemical that has been illustrated to be protective for blood vessels against the damaging LDL-cholesterol.
The protein in oats is also much higher than most breakfast cereals at around 14% and this can help you feel fuller for longer and helping you better deal with the mid-morning munchies! Likewise, nuts are a fabulous source of fibre, healthy fats, protein and contain a range of micronutrients and minerals including several B vitamins, vitamin E and potassium. Nuts have also been associated with better heart health and lowered cholesterol and when added to a meal, will slow the rate of digestion through the gastrointestinal tract, helping to manage blood glucose.
The following recipe can be as simple or as intricate as you like – you might just want to use one type of fruit, nut or seed or you may include a wide variety. Likewise, you may like to play around with the quantities and ratios to suit your tastes or to change it up occasionally. I like my bowl to look and taste like a party and we need a new batch at home at least every 2-3 weeks. So to make it more efficient and save on preparation time, we fill a big snaplock bag with a mix of seeds, chopped nuts and dried coconut and simply scoop out 2½ cups of the mixture as required. You could also take a similar approach with the fruit.
A note of caution: though this granola is low in added sugars/fats compared to the store-bought varieties and it is very nutritious – it is also naturally quite high in energy from the natural fats found in the nuts and the fruit sugars. So, probably best not to sit down to a whole bowl of it (if you can resist!) – a standard serving size would be a 3-5 tablespoons on top of yogurt/fruit or to liven up a boring serve of 4.5-5 star cereal.
- 4 cups raw, whole rolled oats – definitely not quick or flavoured oats! Or you could use buckwheat if you are gluten free
- 1 cup mixed, chopped or slivered raw nuts
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes or shredded coconut
- ½ cup raw seeds (sunflower, flaxseed or pepitas are great)
- ½ cup chopped unsweetened dried fruit – sultanas, apricots, pineapple, apple etc
- 3-4 tablespoons – maple syrup/honey
- 2-3 tbsp virgin coconut oil
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 large pinch of sea-salt
- 4 teaspoons (or more if you like!) of powdered spices – cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg go really well together as does ginger and ground cardamom.
- Preheat the oven to 150ºC
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix really well – you’ll have to get in there with your hands if your coconut oil is not liquid as otherwise you’ll end up with clumps, or warm the oil to a liquid consistency prior to adding it to the mixture.
- Thinly spread the mixture, flattening it over 3 non-stick oven trays and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until toasted to your taste– stirring/turning it over after about 7 minutes
- Cool, stirring the mixture occasionally and keep in an airtight container in the fridge or pantry.
Nutritional information: Muesli: